Easter: The Place of Our Resurrection

Raphael's The Transfiguration (1520)

Raphael’s The Transfiguration (1520)

This Easter evening we resurrection-believing types are likely sitting down, basking in the power of today’s symbolism, while licking the stolen-from-our-kids’-Easter-basket chocolate off our fingers and pondering what to do with all those hard boiled eggs.  Our Lenten journeys over, we are quickly back to sipping on our coffees, wine or whathaveyou’s, secretly grateful that that discipline practice is over and we can return back to ordinary life.

And here is where the ever ironic and paradoxical-pilgrimage ways of the Greatest Journey ever made continues to resound and clang, making that Lenten home-coming not as comfortable as we anticipated and certainly not what we thought it would seem.  For the journey made by Jesus through Gethsemane to Golgotha didn’t end in darkness and death.  This tormented trek didn’t return a man unchanged from his travails.  No, this most sacred of all journeys ended in transformation, restoration and resurrection!  Nothing in the universe would ever be the same again because God set out on the greatest venture ever beheld, journeying towards an end that really has only been The Beginning.

We set out on the pilgrim-path traveling towards transformation.  All bets are in that indeed, this ancient mode of sacred migration will connect us to the divine and that we will return changed.  And it most certainly does!  For no one who has ever encountered the Holy remains the same, so how can we expect to arrive home, pull up the ottoman, pop open a beer and exhale, “Whew!  Glad that is over! …Now, what’s on TV?….”  Pilgrimage just doesn’t work that way.  For you see, from the earliest recordings in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we witness a universal life force that is always on the move.  Jehovah was a pilgrim-God, always walking, always moving, always going out towards the edges of society and calling to the least of these.  Author Charles Foster in A Sacred Journey (2010, Thomas Nelson), says it fantastically, “[God traveled] in a box slung over the shoulders of refugees and worshipped in a tent.”

Pilgrimage is wandering after this nomad-loving God and seeking after a divine-kingdom whose powers are established on the periphery.  And if we take up our cross and follow Him to these places, how can we expect to return home, content to put our walking stick in the closet and our souvenirs on the mantel?  We were made to walk, hence our amazingly designed bipedal bodies.  When we sit for too long, bad things happen, there is really no denying it.  We develop physical issues that lead to chronic pain and poor health habits.  We start to engage the world through screens instead of through touch, resulting in an apathy that is hardly characteristic of Jesus’ radical pilgrimage through Palestine.  We get cozy and comfortable and no longer long for a quest that will transform and reform us.  Content, we are happy to scroll through our iPad finding hints of God’s presence there.

Understandably, our technology indeed offers new and unique ways of engaging the world, and yes, even bearing witness to testimonies of God’s presence throughout the earth.  However, there is something fundamentally changed that occurs when journeying after God outside, when the created elements are participating in the blessings and bumps that are experienced on the road.  In the Celtic tradition, peregrinatio (Latin for “pilgrimage”) takes on a special meaning as it refers to a different kind pilgrimage.  Instead of setting out to walk to a specific holy site or destination, the ancient Celtic monks would undertake a maritime excursion to find their “place of resurrection,” which is a place to which God is calling the wanderer to settle, serve and await death.  The boats used at the time were called coracles, which were small vessels made of animal skins stretched across a wooden frame and sealed with pitch.  These early Celtic saints would set off in a coracle without  oars, trusting the wind and current to guide them to arrive where they are being called to go.  They would literally cast themselves adrift to sea for the love of God, following only the direction the wind would take them.  In this ancient practice of peregrination, the natural world was a critical element to the journey.  The wind and waves interacted with and informed the wayfaring, ever obedient to the will of God.

These journeys were acts of complete trust and faith in God, and resulted in new monastic establishments, some of which would define the Celtic Christian world (Iona and Lindisfarne being great examples).  The place of resurrection was one in which absolute assurance in God would become the new normal; this certitude would become the ordinary time in which these pilgrims now lived.  And death, let’s say death to self, would come in the form of no more comfortable couches on which to recline until the next call came.  No, the cross was borne and convenience was exchanged for connection with God through creation.

Our Lenten journey need not be over.  Our Easter celebrations should not be checked off the list of this month’s activities.  Because we set out to experience grace in the pilgrimage conditions of Lent, we were changed.  And because we are changed, so will be our home-places.  These environs of patterned thoughts, behaviors and lifestyle should be affected by the grace we experienced on the road, thereby causing even these familiar modes of being to be radically impacted, so much so that home no longer looks or feels the same.  So much so that we discover that we are hoping more, living more, desiring for difference more.

Our pilgrimage didn’t end on Friday, nor does it conclude today in a dyed, candy coated frenzy.  Today, because of the Resurrection, we are lit up with our Easter-people reality!  And this awe, this grace initiates another inner prompting, to again leave behind the familiar (because indeed, it takes mere minutes for something to become familiar), to again engage the cyclical patterns of pilgrimage, and go where the Spirit now leads to continue to walk to the place of our resurrection!


Pilgrim’s Path: Roadside blessings

This is the great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering.
The thing wich has been living in
your imagination suddenly becomes a part of the tangible world.
-Freya Stark

In a few weeks time, thousands of people from all over the world will gather outside of Boston’s city-skirts.  Individuals committed to a cause, a question, a challenge, with hundreds of miles of distance carried in their limbs, will congregate, and celebrate, in this  community.  Lithe, strong bodies will arise before the sun to lace up shoes and participate in the consummation of months-yes, even years-of training for The Boston Marathon.

While it is no Delphi, to argue that this notable race isn’t a sacred shrine would be to miss the enormous effort and journey it has taken everyone to get there.  The rewards of participating in this race are immediate and life-altering, as are the hours of sacrifice it took to reach the point of being able to simply look at the starting line.  And while the last 26.2 miles may seem to others the beginning and end of a great race, this really is the final stage of a pilgrimage that one was called to long ago.  For one doesn’t enter into the rigorous training and sacrificial lifestyle of marathon-preparation without carrying a deep and heavy question about something in their life.  And the pilgrim-runner inevitably carries this question or concern with them every single training mile and all the way to the starting line.  The race itself sets the stage for the soul-stirring vision and provides the sacred encounter, which can replenish the runner’s life.

In what feels like another life-time ago, I had the great opportunity to participate in Boston’s 100th marathon.  It wasn’t necessarily something that I set after, per se.  As it often is with the great seasons of life, it calls to and names us, even before we are significantly aware.  I had started running with a bit more focus while living abroad in Sweden.  After a handful of minor successes at small neighborhood races, I was encouraged (by my mother) to consider training for the Stockholm Marathon.  With youth and unfettered responsibilities on my side, I was able to train and prepare well for this race.  I wanted to participate in something that would give me a real, temporal perspective of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (I Corinthians 9:24-15).  When an athlete decides to run a marathon, he or she commits to serious training. Why would it be any different with my spiritual life?  I was reminded of the many stories in my faith tradition that involved transformational journeys, all of which included a road of some sorts and an encounter with the Almighty.  I wanted this training to transform me.  I wanted to be touched by God and be changed in return.  I wanted the milage put in on the road to be full of meaning.

I crossed the Stockholm Marathon’s finish line with a time that qualified me for Boston’s heralded race.  I shook my head in both confusion and surprise as my father this time, nodded his head emphatically:  You’ve got to run Boston, I recall him saying, This is a chance of a lifetime!  What I thought was the end of my running race, that which I imagined was the source of divine inspiration for me, turned out to be just the beginning of a greater pilgrimage towards knowing myself and subsequently, knowing God.

Drizzled, fog-filled back-country roads became my training ground.  I found mountain’s foothills and ran repeats up and down their curves to ready myself for notorious aspects of Boston’s course.  My dad would drive me 20 miles east into the North Cascade mountain range, drop me off, and meet me at home. I ran in the mornings.  I ran in the afternoons.   I read articles about running.  I studied maps of Boston.  And I dreamt of my finisher’s jacket.  My time, my energy, my life was focused and centered on preparing well for this event, and I believe I truly did what I could to make ready the road.


The morning of Boston’s finest race had sparkled with diamond dew and turquoise skies.  My strategies to gain ground had worked, my stamina was strong and I was on the clock to PR this race and qualify again for the following year.  I was doing great by mile 20.  The almost half mile ascent up the infamous Heartbreak Hill began.  My feet kept a steady pace, my heart and spirit felt strong and determined: this is what I had trained for all those miles up and down Northwest woodland roads.  I crested the mighty climb!  The rest of the race was downhill; the finish line was almost palpable!  Soon enough I would be drinking beers and eating an amazing pasta dinner somewhere in the city with my family-I could almost taste the joy of that delicious finish line!

But then, at the high descent point, blew a wind so strong, that even my down-hill pace was slowed and swayed by its force.  And this easterly gust, being channeled by narrow streets, carried with it a chill for which I could never have prepared myself.  My once wet head, a mixture of both hot sweat and hastily poured road-side water, was quickly drying and taking with it my body’s crucial temperature and energy reserves.  I didn’t have additional layers and I was getting so cold.  Soon enough, I recall not being able to feel my hands and feet; that sensation moved through my extremities as I began to navigate the tunnel my vision was presenting me.  I was staggering.  And suddenly, alongside me came an upholding embrace and a warm, gentle voice offered me their top long-sleeve layer and gloves.  Somehow, while still running, I was helped into these items, and this loving arm stayed around my side until my vision began to steady and open up again.  When I turned to thank this benevolent fellow runner, there was no one there.  I mean, yes, there were thousands around me, running past me, not seeing me, but there was no one who had just just stopped and gambled away their race time on ministering to me.

Bewildered and blessed, I tried to keep running and just finish the race.  My personal record was shot, as was my chance to run Boston again the following year, but I knew I still must cross the finish line.  As I did, my state must’ve been like a siren, as medics immediately brought me to the first aid tent.  I had hypothermia and had I not had these great layers and gloves, I could’ve been very badly off, I was told.  My body lay wrapped in emergency blankets for what felt like hours processing this experience.  My heart was warmed by the memory of whomever-or whatever-it was that covered and comforted me on the road.  My spirit was stirred by that service; I knew that God had brought me through the race and I now began the work of pondering the wisdom of the finish line.

That ultimate sense of wonder within the experience is what drives so many people to engage in these rigorous trials.  Father Stephen Canny, an Irish priest who leads a parish in Santa Rosa, California, believes strongly in the effectiveness of pilgrimage.  He has climbed Croagh Patrick, a popular pilgrimage site and storied mountain in Ireland, three times himself and has seen it work wonders on the devoted. “You are more alive after you have overcome something difficult,” he says.  “You’re changed by the mountain and the fact that you have confirmed your faith.  It’s a remarkably effective way to answer the question, What is my purpose?”

Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians around the world.  In the accounts of the four Gospels, Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, whilst the gathered crowd waved the branches of palm branches and laid them on the ground before the mounted Christ.  An incredible journey had brought Jesus to this point, this final stretch of dusty road.  His riding into the sacred city proclaimed his purpose, and people blessed him with shouts of Hosannah.  His entire life time–nay, all of time–had led him to this pivotal point in the Greatest Story ever told.  He would climb the most important hill in humanity’s history in the upcoming week.  And it would be a heart breaking hill.

But because of this great ascent, and the cross at the crest, we have the potential of knowing our uniquely created purpose in ways that only can occur through a cosmic lens!


This week, as we move through the last leg of our Lenten journey, reflect on these questions as a means of bringing you to your place of pilgrimage, your Easter-place:
What sacrifices have you made to get this far?
What has the inward experience been for you while you have traveled the outward road?
What are your recollections of images of humbleness on your journey?
The call that has brought you thus far was the call to pay attention to the sacred source in your life.  What is your response? 

The Pilgrim’s Path: Seeing the Sacred

If the journey you have chosen is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous.  Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren’t trembling as you approach the sacred,                     it isn’t the real thing.  The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.

– Phil Cousineau

As soon as you mark your journey as a pilgrimage, you are drawing a line in the sand transforming how you move through the world-how you see, hear and taste the world around you.  And inevitably, because of this manner of intention-and because the Powers that Be know what you’ve done (that whole line in the sand act)-there will be things that go wrong…terribly wrong.  That is simply the nature of the Pilgrim’s Path; no longer can you just simply curse at an inconvenience or change in plans.  There is Some One speaking to you now through the chaos.  There is a Force that will derail all your best laid undertakings and ideals for this journey just so you will see things anew, afresh; just so you will see the Holy, the Mystery that is present.

The purpose of the pilgrimage is to ultimately make life more meaningful.  It is regarded as the universal quest for the self.  Though the form of the path changes, one element remains the same: renewal of the soul.  The essence of the sacred way is “tracing a sacred route of tests and trials, ordeals and obstacles, to arrive at a holy place and attempt to fathom the secrets of its power.”[i]  The act of listening is emphasized here.  The way of the pilgrim is one of an inner-quiet, an inner ear tuned to the subtle sounds of the Spirit while on the sacred road.  And every road is sacred, as is every sidewalk, every aisle, every stoplight.  You have chosen to listen and to see the life that moves around and through you, no longer overlooking the beauty and the blessings that surround every minute of every day.

Once the acts of intention and attention are completed, the pilgrim is ready to cross the threshold.  The threshold is more than an architectural detail; it is a mythological image that evokes the spirit of resistance we must pass through on our journey from all we’ve known to all that is unknown.  It is the first step toward renewal.[ii]  Once on the other side, Pilgrims move from ordinary time and space into sacred time and sacred space.  In this reality, the meanings we associate with our normal everyday experiences are turned upside down.  This isn’t necessarily to over-spiritualize everything; I mean, you may really have run out of gas simply because YOU didn’t fill up the tank.  But, maybe…just maybe…you did run out of gas because that person who helped you…needed you as much as you needed them.  Or maybe that call from a friend, or the bank, or the doctor, or the school, while inevitably inconveniencing you to whatever extent, is an augury- demanding that you slow, stop and SEE the Sacred that is on the move in your life.

Every encounter, every eye contact, every handshake is now imbued with the potential and possibility for a sacred encounter–and rarely does God disappoint. The structures we use to define who we are in ordinary life become irrelevant.  Pilgrim space has no regard for class, race, or social/economic standing.  There are no more random run-ins with strangers; there are no more lucky or misfortunate moments.  In sacred travel, every experience is uncanny; every contact attests to some greater plan.  No encounter is without meaning.  There are signs everywhere, if only we learn how to read them.  Peculiar people turn into much-needed messengers.  “From now,” advised Epictetus, “practice saying to everything that appears unpleasant: ‘you are just an appearance and by no means what you appear to be.’” Use the powers of your sacred imagination, the old Roman sage is saying.  See behind the veil of things.  Listen to the message that is between every spoken word, every gust of wind.  Everything matters along the road, but what matters deeply is what is invisible and must be seen with the inner eye.[iii]

In August 2009 I, along with about 20 undergraduate students from Seattle Pacific University, were pledged to make pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland.  We had departed from SeaTac airport with ease; the sun seemed to be shining upon us and our ventures.  In fact, I rode the light rail to get to the airport and the station where I embarked, Columbia City Station, had an icon next to the station sign that, while overseen many times, I finally looked and it spoke to me: the image was that of a dove.  Columbia  City…Columbia…Columba…Colum Cille…”dove of the church”…and patron saint of Iona.  Could an omen be any clearer?  My heart was thrilled to begin this sacred journey!  However, as it has to be with pilgrimages, this ecstasy was relatively short lived.  For while we were to have but a brief layover in Philadelphia prior to our Transatlantic flight, we were stuck on the turmac for HOURS as Hurricane Bill raged all around us; lightning rods reaching from the dark sky and striking the black asphalt upon which our plane sat.  Throughout this drenching downpour, our luggage sat, open to the skies…uncovered.  When we picked up our backpacks in Glasgow, they were soaked, as were their contents.  As were my meticulous memorandas for our retreat.  Every paper of pre-planned retreat material?  Saturated. Could I have cried tears of frustration?  Sure!  But I knew that there was a message for me in those great winds and in between each of those heavy drops of rain.  I chose to laugh, and begin to listen.

Part of the importance of the road are the ones whom you happen upon along the way.  It is critical to understand that while you may be on a personal pilgrimage, that you may be doing something ever-so-unique-to-you-alone during Lent, you are surrounded by others. These friends and family, yes, even these strangers will be the harbingers of many important messages to you on your way.  You are not journeying alone.  Shoulder up to these voices, these presences, and seek their wisdom and response.  Undoubtedly they have something important to pass along your way.  They may be sent to redirect you, to provide you new instructions.  But you must first be able to extend a hand, make eye contact and then, listen.

Since last week’s writing and sharing of my Lenten intentions, there has been something being proclaimed-nay, SHOUTED-in my ears; and quite honestly, I welcome any help from you, my journey-partners, in deciphering what I’m already supposed to be seeing.  For, soon after I wrote of my love and need for the impartation of ashes, my middle son -River- became ill.  Our youngest, Anna, was quickly at his heels.  By our rice and bean dinner time, we were making home-made ash from remnants in our fire pit for our own house-ritual and rubbing troubled tummies at the same time.

The flu had landed at 2809 and was merciless.  By Friday, Orion, our eldest, was head to toe covered in hives as his body battled the virus.  By Saturday, it was evident that River had become severely dehydrated and needed to be taken to the hospital.  Anna, clung to me in her lethargy, and whimpered whenever put down.  It was as if a hurricane had hit our house and was pummeling us with all its worth.  Sunday had us over its knee in exhaustion; this was supposed to be our Feast Day and I hadn’t once worked out for 30 minutes since Lent began!  This wasn’t what I had intended for the start of my holy-journey at all!  Despite the counters laden with crackers and cures, Joel and I had continued to eat our rice and beans and, heck!  I was frustrated, tired from the unceasing vigils, and ready to feast and I had absolutely no energy to put into anything except warming up the vat of Lenten victuals in the fridge.

And then there was a knock at the door.  Our associate pastor was on our porch with prayers and Pyrex in hand: hot, home-made Beef and Broccoli in Oyster Sauce was being brought to us for dinner.  He extended us his hand, he looked into our eyes.  He blessed River and attended to Anna.  He brought care and concern from our congregation. He was a messenger. Look for the Sacred.  Listen for the Message.  Tears streamed down my face as love was ladled onto our plates.  I leaned into the strength of someone else in my kitchen, someone else standing at my sink.  I ate.  I was nourished-oh so very fed!

I am freshly struck with how we just simply cannot get by in this life on our own.  We cannot be parents, parishioners, pilgrims or priests without a community of care around us.  This network IS our guide.  These hands, these voices, these hearts, help us find our direction when the way has stormed over.  When our backpacks have become too heavy from the torrential rains of the Pilgrim’s road, we must find relief from other’s who are sharing in this journey with us.  They are here for this reason.

God has placed them on our path to provide and point the way.


Does the road wind uphill all the way?                                                                                     Yes, to the very end.                                                                                                                 Will the journey take the whole long day?                                                                                     From morn to night, my friend.                                                                                                 -Christina Rossetti, 1867

 [i] Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, (Boston, MA: Conari Press, 1998), 96.

[ii] Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, (Boston, MA: Conari Press, 1998), 83.

[iii] Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, (Boston, MA: Conari Press, 1998), 98.


The Pilgrim’s Departure

Today the Lenten journey begins. Today is a day of ancient rituals. Today is a day where our foreheads bear ashen crosses, marking this sacred season of separation and simplicity. Today is the day where we carry our commitments and convictions forward and through a soul-season.  Here we announce that we are going to intentionally set ourselves apart from some thing or we commit to a practice that brings life and establishes an order of justice and love. This is a declaration of intent and it is no trivial thing.  With it, we are saying, “I want to touch and be touched by something holy.  After this experience, my life will be different.  I will be different.  Because I have taken this pilgrimage, I will feel more connected with myself, with others, and with the Holy and creative source of life.”[i]  By declaring your intention for this pilgrimage, this season of Lent, you are proclaiming the purpose as sacred.  Whether you are intending to refrain or rejuvenate, these declarations are designated differences for your journey.  From now on, there is no such thing as a neutral act or meaningless day.  The daily contemplations surrounding your intention will begin to align you with God and center your journey.

Before one departs on a pilgrimage, it is essential to participate in leave-taking rituals.  These separation rituals mark for yourself the place from where you are departing; they represent your current state of mind, your current situations, and your questions.  They also prepare you to cross a threshold from the known to the unknown.  Our Ash Wednesday impartation of ashes serves as a symbolic entrance into the unknown Lenten landscape.   Imagine all the different ways you can prepare for and mark Lent (or any journey for that matter) as a serious soul-season.  Rituals vocalize your openness to being touched and changed by a power that is holy and transcendent.

As our culture has become more computerized, confined and cosmopolitan, our comfortability with regular rituals and sacred seasons has shifted from standard to strange. Participation in ancient acts is often met by others with a look askance or a presumption of  strange spirituality.  However, rituals have marked seasons and a life’s development for thousands of years.  Our human nature needs to be able to behold and acknowledge our lives within the grand chaos and cosmos of all that surrounds us.  Rites ground us in our humble lives while associating our souls with the divine order of creation.  Our internal rhythm relishes these benchmarks, these touchstones, that confirm and affirm our presence and passage through periods of import.  A journey, a pilgrimage, is one of the most ancient of rituals practiced to bring about, or acknowledge, a change in one’s life.

Poet and author, John O’Donohue, speaks about our collective need to recognize thresholds in life with rituals and blessings.  Life is a journey and ultimately the best metaphorical example of a pilgrimage.  We cross thresholds throughout our life, but without the sense of the sacred in these crossings, they can become meaningless, disheartened stages.  We engage the practice of pilgrimage, with the declaration of intention and leave-taking rituals, to acknowledge our surrender to the Spirit, and to “reawaken our capacity for blessing.”  O’Donohue shares with us:

A threshold is a significant frontier where experience banks up; there is intense                  concrescence.  It is a place of great transformation.  Some of the most powerful thresholds divide worlds from each other; life in the womb from birth, childhood from adolescence, adulthood from middle age, old age from death.  And on each side there is a different geography of feelings, thinking, and being.  The crossing of a threshold is in effect a rite of passage.

Our culture has little to offer us for our crossings.  Never was there such talk of communication or such technology to facilitate it.  Yet at the heart of our newfound wealth and progress there is a gaping emptiness, and we are haunted by loneliness.  While we seem to have progressed to become experts in so many things—multiplying and acquiring stuff we neither need nor truly want—we have unlearned the grace of presence and belonging.  With the demise of religion, many people are left stranded in a chasm of emptiness and doubt; without rituals to recognize, celebrate, or negotiate the vital thresholds of people’s lives, the key crossings pass by, undistinguished from the mundane, everyday rituals of life.  This is where we need to retrieve and reawaken our capacity for blessing.  If we approach our decisive thresholds with reverence and attention, the crossing will bring us more than we could ever have hoped for.  This is where blessing invokes and awakens every gift the crossing has to offer.  In our present ritual poverty, the Celtic tradition has much to offer us. [ii]

Your statement of intent and leave-taking rituals that allow you to declare your hopes and fears are a part of the separation stage of pilgrimage.  The sacred journey is not just about leaving the ordinary rhythms and places of life.  The process is much more and involves stages of moving from ordinary space into sacred space and then back again.  The stages of pilgrimage-as of any life threshold-are important because they are more about what occurs within the pilgrim than about the physical process of leaving and returning home.

We set out from our normal rhythms, our home-cadence, not just for the journey itself.  We leave so that we may return; when we return we are changed and therefore, so are our homes. We have grown, emerged, developed and the former walls of familiar thoughts and theory may no longer contain us comfortably.  What has challenged us on the road has changed our routine.  We set out only to try to settle back in…but we find we cannot.  And this is the Spirit’s work.  Yes, the journey absolutely is contingent on the destination, and today we are especially mindful of the Cross that meets us at the commencement of Lent.  But these heart-felt intentions that we take with us for the duration of the journey shift our home-life; they transform what was normal, into sacred…and then reconstructs that into our new perspectives upon homecoming.

For example, say you are participating in a Lenten carbon fast, or eating only organic, local, sustainable, fair traded foods during this season.  Maybe you are abstaining from alcohol or refined sugars and giving your savings to charity. While these may have been originally decided upon because they separated you from your norm, after Easter you may find that these very same things have become your new home, your new way of living.  I truly believe this is how God works; God intervenes and then interweaves change and difference into our lives until they become our new mode of being.  Relinquishment is transmuted into right relationship.

Today, as you mark your journey into Lent, with the smudged markings of a cross, may you be open to the transformation that is before you.  Believe that the Spirit resides in the unknown landscapes that reside between now and your arrival-your Easter.  May you give yourself over to the mysteries of ritual and the gifts that only threshold crossings can bring. May you meet angels every step of the way on your pilgrimage journey!


ps. So, what am I “giving up for Lent” you might ask?  It is hardly lofty and has nothing to do with awaking earlier (can’t afford that what with three young ones still clamoring for momma at all hours), going without caffeine (can’t do that because of the sleep, or lack thereof), or going without alcohol (remember those three children I mentioned?  they are all six and under, which means a glass of wine at night truly is a gift from God!).  I have two intentions with which I am crossing the threshold into this year’s Lenten journey:

1) I am committing to raising my heart rate above resting for 30+ minutes a day; yes, this means exercise!  I am seeing this as an intentional act of moving myself more towards the created being God intended.  I am a better wife, partner, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor and more inspired to boot when I get out and move this body I live in.  That means I can be better for my world if I do this.  So there it is–intention numero uno.

2) Between the hours of 4:00-7:00pm there is a sharp-tongued beast that emerges from my deepest parts.  It is curt, impatient and hungry…and not very nice.  I am tired during these hours, we are all awaiting Joel’s return from the workday, and little ones seem to need me more.  And.  I have the singular responsibility of making dinner (no blame here; this is how our responsibilities shake down here at 2809 because…well, I’m a better cook!).  While a warm meal is typically on the table for us all to gather around and eat together, more often than not, I’m peaked.  I don’t feel like “being the change I want to see in the world,” and that makes me sad.  I wanted to do something this season that was on the “bringing life” side of things, and for me, the challenge was in figuring out how to make time to do so.

So, with the combined inspiration of a friend of a friend’s blog and the call of Joel’s current reading of Simpler Living, Compassionate Life , we are eating beans and rice for dinner through Lent (excluding Sundays, which are feast days throughout Lent).  What will that do?  Well…I’m hoping to gain three-hours of family time; time where I’m not relegated to the kitchen, but can be together with the whole family and time when I’m not maxed chopping, roasting, grilling and wiping all at the same time.  I’m hoping to learn with my children the consumption reality of the majority of the earth’s people; a very small population has the privilege of perusing recipes and procuring listed items every day.  If we are going to learn to live on behalf of Other, at some point, we’ve got to eat like them too.

[i] Sarah York, Pilgrim Heart: The Inner Journey Home, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001), 10.

[ii] John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, (Doubleday; 2008).


The Call


Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16                                    ——————–

Next week the season of Lent begins. For some this may cause frantic binges on all things containing caffeine, sugar and/or alcohol.  For others, this may hardly incite a passive, acknowledging nod and yet still for others, this may cause a response of libertarian piety for all those unsophisticated souls who still fast to prepare for the great feast of Easter.  In a culture whose calendars are captained by smart phones and apps, it is increasingly rare for us to be moved by a season beyond predictable greeting cards and holiday decor.  These seasons-be they spiritual, soulful or secular-have a much needed purpose in our lives; they punctuate our plain places with celebration and solidarity.  They break open our schedules and routines and bring us together; we gather in community and communion around these seasons, which testify to our lives, to our journeys and where we are headed.

Lent itself is a journey that invites us to awaken to a deep disturbance-to acknowledge that Ordinary Time has become just that-ordinary-and out of this hum-drumness emerges a question and a yearning.  There is something that calls us to look towards an end, a destination of a soulful sojourn that reengages us with Holy Ground, which spurs faith onward.  This needn’t be a time of temperance, but of transformation.  There is an invitation here to see these upcoming weeks as a pilgrimage, that something, some PLACE is calling to us, beseeching us to look deeper, GO deeper and be altered by the process.  This is a call that summons us to the hidden life, the life of the spirit.

Your life is calling you to leave home-that which is ordinary, that which has become so very normal and so very expected-this season. Your spirit needs you to heed, to really begin listening for the reason behind this journey (and lucky us, one that happens annually!).  It is time to acknowledge your surrender to the Spirit, who will “lead you into unpredictable adventures of the soul.” (Sarah York, Pilgrims Heart, 5).  It is time to pack your bags!  However, I would speculate that the ritualistic forgoing of certain foods or habits isn’t that which will heighten this experience; just like when you pack for that flight that weighs your luggage, or when you load up your backpack for a trek in the backcountry, you want to travel lightly.  Absolutely take note of that which you carry in this season right now, and you may find that to lighten your load you may want to practice simplicity in some areas.  This practice begins to awaken the ‘pilgrim mood’ in you; it summons the inner-sojourner who is readying for the road, always listening, always watching, always waiting for signs and signals from the One who is calling you.

The call of the season is upon us.  The journey pilgrimage towards engaging The Passion is nigh-this is the time to center in and listen.  Don’t be dismayed if you don’t hear anything or connect with something right away; that will cry out loud as you campaign away from convention and common places. This is a quiet time. This is a time to begin with focusing on what you love and what is difficult for you.  These will be what you carry with you as you cross the threshold and journey into Lent next week.

We set out as seekers after answers, or even peace, that we cannot find at home so believe that a change of scene may be easier than a change of heart.  But as we set out to travel the interior roads of discovery, we discover how quickly travel can turn to travail and how really, there is no forward motion unless we’ve yielded to the hard, steep, dark places.  Our annual calendar calls forth the need for a journey that will stretch us, that will bring us to our knees, that will bring us closer to the Creator of it ALL.  U2’s Bono sang the truth well when he piped, “If you want to kiss the sky, you’ve got to learn how to kneel*.”

The ancient path is calling us to come.  The road is ready.  And there is sky, and all the stars that sparkle within, that will watch over our every step and be there to greet us at our arrival.  And we will be kneeling together, and helping one another up, along the whole journey.

Where there is no way, no path, no road made plain,                                                       May there be wise ones who inspire you to see where the way could begin.                        -Jan Richardson

*”Mysterious Ways” as written by Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Paul David Hewson, Larry Mullen, Angelique Kidjo